Jargon, terminology, lexicon…. call it what you will! The important thing is that we ensure our employees and our external stakeholders are all on the same page when it comes to business strategy. And a key driver of having a shared understanding of what our business strategy is is to use the same strategic terminology. For example:
What is the difference between a goal and an objective?
Some might say they are the same thing, we say:
- A Goal is an observable and measurable end result, with one or more objectives to be achieved within a more or less fixed time-frame.
- An objective is a short action-oriented and SMART-based statement that describes what your business will do to carry out its strategy.
To avoid any confusion, all of your strategic terms need to be defined. You need to ensure when you say ‘Goal’ everyone knows you are talking about a measurable end result and that you are not commenting on last night’s football match.
Having a shared strategic terminology will mean:
1. Shared understanding
Clear and commonly-understood terminology makes it easier to gain a shared understanding across your business. This is important when we are discussing business strategy, especially when concepts may be new or unfamiliar. A clear lexicon will help your employees to get on board and to feel confident that they understand what is happening and what is expected of them.
When your employees feel confident that they understand the terminology and can use it effectively, they are far more likely to engage with the strategy. That confidence will help to create productive conversations, a sense of inclusivity and shared responsibility and that overall innovation and creativity that businesses strive to create.
This is vital because otherwise ‘fancy management language’ can be seen as a way to distance business leaders and employees. Instead, create a shared, jointly owned base of terminology that is easy for everyone to understand.
Your business strategy is far more likely to succeed if it is described in an accurate, consistent and correct way with a defined strategic terminology glossary. For example, some businesses get confused between KPIs and targets. After all, they both describe something that the business needs to do, right? But actually, they are quite different:
A Key Performance Indicator is a strategic metric which is vital to assessing progress towards business strategy objectives; they are intrinsically tied to an objective and will have features such as a timeframe and a measurement threshold.
A target, on the other hand, is something that needs to happen within a time period to allow a KPI to happen. These are the stretch goals of the business.
To potentially confuse things further, there might be different targets across the business for different purposes. For example, a service provider might have targets imposed by the client as part of the contractual delivery obligations. But these targets may not be the same as the targets defined within the business plan, to support the overarching strategy.
Why a glossary can help
Business strategy can be confusing, particularly at the start of the journey when the organisation is unfamiliar with the processes that are being followed in a structured way for the first time. Because a lot of terminologies will almost certainly be used, it helps to have an internal glossary that employees at all levels of the organisation – and external stakeholders – can refer to. This will clear up any confusion and ensure that everyone is ‘singing from the same hymn sheet!’. We have produced a comprehensive glossary of strategic terms which is available for use or as a starter kit for your organisation.
Practical tips for using consistent strategic terminology
It doesn’t matter if you wish to create slightly different ways of describing your key terms. After all, every business will operate in its own unique environment and market, with different internal needs. The key thing is to create common, accurate and clearly understandable terms that everyone can get on board with.
To help create and embed your strategic terminology, these steps can help.
- Use the Intrafocus glossary to get you started, or refer to various sources to create the definitions that work for you. Get input from trusted sources to get them right before you begin to cascade them out. Use Plain English too wherever possible as unnecessary jargon will turn people off and create barriers. Make the terms as accessible as you can so that people understand them and use them easily and confidently.
- Share your terms with your broader stakeholder base – including partners, your board, suppliers and other key stakeholders. Publish them on your website.
- Begin using your new corporate strategy lexicon openly and visibly within the organisation so that everyone begins to absorb the terms and to use them correctly and in the right way. T his will help to stimulate those all-important discussions about business strategy and to encourage innovation and buy-in at all levels.
- Remember to train your new starters in your terms as part of their business strategy induction!
Get the help that you need
Intrafocus works with commercial and non-profit clients across all industries to support them with their strategic development. Wherever you are at with your strategy journey, we can assist you and help set you up for success. Our team are also adept at working remotely in the current Covid crisis and can operate flexibly according to your needs. Please contact us for an informal chat about your needs in the first instance and we will be delighted to assist.